Within an hour of learning that his chief of staff was under investigation in a child pornography case, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander waived any possible constitutional challenges and gave federal investigators full access to the aide's congressional computer files.
Alexander spokeman Jim Jeffries said Tuesday that the Tennessee Republican senator waived rights he could have exercised under the speech and debate clause of the U.S. Constitution. That clause has been invoked in the past by members of Congress in the face of federal investigations.
The need for such a waiver was disclosed in a court document unsealed this week as part of the investigation of Alexander's former chief of staff, Jesse Ryan Loskarn, who is facing charges of possession and distribution of child pornography.
The agents, according to the affidavit, had set up special procedures for handling any congressionally-issued computer equipment or data seized in the raid on Loskarn's home. Those procedures required any congressional computer data to be set aside pending a possible waiver from Alexander.
"Within an hour of receiving the request and before Mr. Loskarn's arrest, Sen. Alexander authorized the Justice Department to search Senate-issued electronic devices. In other words, within an hour, the senator authorized everything the Department asked for," Jeffries said in an email response to questions.
The affidavit by a U.S. Postal Inspection Service agent was used to justify the search of Loskarn's Washington residence last week. Alexander first suspended and then fired Loskarn on the same day the aide was arrested.
The 43-page affidavit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., shows Loskarn made multiple online purchases of films depicting young males and females engaged in sex acts. One of those purchases on Nov. 4, 2010 was for a one-hour-and-eight-minute film called Headlock.
According to the filing, the film depicts 14 boys seen wrestling naked with frequent close-ups of their genitalia.
The affidavit states that the films were ordered by Loskarn over the Internet from a Toronto company that already had come under scrutiny by federal investigators.
Loskarn, who was fired by Alexander on the same day his house was raided, ordered films from the Toronto company on several occasions. He was identified by federal agents who traced the purchases back to his Internet account using a series of subpoenas, the document says.
Other films cited by Postal Inspector Brian Bone depicted sex acts between minors and adults.
Bone cited four files ranging from a little over an hour to 8 minutes and 28 seconds. The filing describes how federal agents traced the orders to Loskarn's residence at 1804 Burke St. SE in Washington.
It describes how federal agents conducted surveillance on the residence at 11:45 p.m. on Nov. 18 and observed Loskarn's four-door red Lexus parked less than a block from the residence.
Loskarn, who was released from custody on Monday, remains under house arrest at his parents' home in Maryland. Pamela Satterfield, Loskarn's attorney, declined to comment.
The affidavit concludes that "probable cause exists to believe that an individual at 1804 Burke St. SE has offered to distribute, transport, receive or possess child pornography or has attempted to commit these crimes."